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why the new install system for JDK 1.4.2 is bad

I've been using the JDK 1.4.2 beta for several weeks now. On one hand, I like the new Windows XP look and feel, which some glitches aside, seems to work relatively well.

But there is one piece of the JDK package that gives me shivers. I'm talking about the new installation system that comes built in with the Java Plugin.

The new system is eerily similar to Microsoft's Windows Update, Java installs a daemon program that not only runs constantly but also installs a quick access icon, ostensibly for "status". If you click on it you get a horribly designed screen with a million options, and, surprise surprise, the Java Plugin is set to update itself automatically by default. This is awful. (here is an old slashdot thread on these changes, which apparently have been brewing for a while).

I've argued before about the need for a consistent, simple way to manage Java installations on the client, and I can only wish that this is the work of some misguided intern that will be quickly squashed. Not only automatic updates are bad, the configuration screens are not appropriate for end users, and it's a Java application running on the Metal L&F, which is a ridiculous default for a control-panel console on Windows. When I say that automatic updates are bad, I'm not even talking about the possible privacy/security concerns: I'm just talking about the problems that automatic updates will create for developers and their deployments. I don't want to imagine what will begin to happen when users can suddenly update automatically to the latest JRE, sometimes without even knowing that they have. Applications will stop running, bugs that you thought you were avoiding will crop up again, new "platform" bugs will appear, and so on, and you won't have a clue of why. It will put much more strain on developers to test against everything that's out there, instead of to a well-known target.

What we need is a good way to deploy a JRE with our application invisibly, alternatively using one of the choices from the user's system. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Okay, rant finished. While on subject, here's an interesting article over at Sun's JDC on the new features of JDK 1.5 (which I talked about a while ago).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 11 2003 at 2:54 PM

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